Reading Between the Lines of On the Waterfront


What sets On the Waterfront apart from more conventional melodrama, besides the emotional force of its storytelling, happens between the lines of the story… “On the Waterfront is no more about the real business of the docks…than Hamlet is an exposé of corruption in the medieval Danish court,” writes filmmaker Michael Almereyda.

On the occasion of its Criterion Collection release, Kevin Courrier writes about the artistic and social legacy of Elia Kazan’s classic film On the Waterfront.

The melodrama may sometimes fall flat, but, Courrier argues, Kazan’s experience naming names to HUAC infuses Marlon Brando’s character’s betrayal of his brother with a troubled and troubling realness, and that’s what makes the movie hit bone.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →